By 1986, the year of Le Duan’s death, Vietnamese leaders had begun to recognize that major changes were needed. At a national congress held in December, new party leaders launched the doi moi (economic renovation) program to reform Vietnamese society and stimulate economic growth. They abandoned efforts to build a fully Communist society by the end of the decade and dismantled collective farms. Party leaders declared their intention to bring about a mixed economy, involving a combination of state, collective, and private ownership. Foreign investment was encouraged, and a more tolerant attitude was adopted toward the free expression of opinion in the country.
Vietnam also sought to improve its position in foreign affairs. All Vietnamese occupation troops were withdrawn from Cambodia by the end of the 1980s. In 1991 Vietnam signed a peace agreement in Paris that created a coalition government of Communist and non-Communist elements in Cambodia.
Vietnam made serious attempts to improve relations with China and with the United States, which ended its economic embargo in 1994. Full diplomatic relations were established the following year. In 1995 Vietnam joined with non-Communist governments in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional organization dedicated to promoting the economic growth of its member states. Also in 1995, Vietnam applied for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the aim of opening the country to greater foreign trade and investment.
Vietnamese leaders, however, have not yet entirely abandoned their dream of creating a Communist society. While stating their intention to create a modified market economy, they insist that state-run industries will hold the “commanding heights” in the system.
Party leaders will not tolerate the creation of rival political organizations and rigorously suppress dissent from opposition forces. Conservative party leaders express open concern at the corrosive influence of decadent ideas from the West, which they view as a plot by “dark forces” in the United States to destroy the Vietnamese revolution. Like the leadership in neighboring China, Vietnamese leaders have declared their support for a policy of “economic reform, political stability.”
In 2001 Vietnam’s Politburo elected Nong Duc Manh as the Communist Party’s general secretary, making him the country’s top leader. Manh pursued a program of economic liberalization, and Vietnam’s economy came to be characterized as “a market economy with socialist orientation.” Manh was reelected to a second five-year term in 2006 and indicated that economic reforms would accelerate. The doi moi reforms had brought tangible success, making Vietnam one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. From 1996 to 2006 Vietnam maintained an annual growth rate of more than 7 percent. In 2006 it ranked second only to China in economic growth.
Vietnam’s economic prospects received a further boost in November 2006, when the WTO approved the country’s bid for membership. The acceptance capped more than a decade of negotiations. The Politburo of Vietnam ratified the deal in late November, paving the way for Vietnam to become the 150th member of the WTO the following month. To gain membership, Vietnam committed to further opening its economy to foreign trade and investment. Among other provisions, Vietnam agreed to lower many import tariffs, abolish trade quotas and restrictions, and open previously protected economic sectors to foreign investors. Membership was expected to give Vietnam more access to overseas markets but also increase the pressures of foreign competition on Vietnamese businesses. "Vietnam" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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